Hot off the heels of their successful Texas tour NXT returned to Lakeland for a night of wrestling action. Fans piled into the sold out armory, along with a sizable camera crew filming for WWE Breaking Ground. It was an entertaining night of odd match-ups accentuated by an excellent tag team main event.
* The evening starts with the drifter Elias Sampson making his way to the ring with his trusty guitar to sing a derogatory song about Lakeland. His opponent for the evening is Steve Cutler. The match starts with a lock-up ending in a stalemate before giving way to back and forth action between the two evenly matched competitors. Cutler mounts a bit of offense with an armdrag and a slam. The marine then runs the ropes, stops to salute, and drops a leg onto Sampson. Later Sampson thwarts his momentum by hanging up Cutler in the ropes. He continues with a series of strikes before settling into a chinlock. The pace quickens and the two trade offense. Cutler begins to get the upper hand with a series of strikes culminating in a flapjack. He then finishes off Sampson with a Fisherman Driver. This was a textbook pro wrestling match but entertaining enough to kick things off. I still have Elias Sampson pegged to go onto great things, while Steve Cutler has improved a lot over the last few months.
* Next up Noah Kekoa taking on Angelo Dawkins. Kekoa debuted a new look tonight, as he was adorned with tribal gear and wore a headdress/mask into the ring. While some fans may feel it a bit stereotypical, it's a big improvement over leis and ukuleles. The aggressive Kekoa started strong until Dawkins took a cheap shot and slowed the pace down. He grounds Kekoa with a modified Muta lock. Eventually Kekoa fights back nailing Dawkins with a clothesline and several chops followed by a big slam. Dawkins manages to drop Kekoa throat first onto the ropes and then nail him with a Half Nelson Slam for the victory. Dawkins is big, athletic guy who certainly has the tools, he is just in dire need of finding his niche.
* Next, Dasha invites Levis Valenzuela Jr into the ring for an interview. He talks about how NXT is taking over and he is now living his dream. He talks about bringing his fiesta to NXT and how he intends to take his conga line all the way to the top of the brand. His music hits and he dances with Dasha. The promo didn't really go anywhere, but it was still fun. Valenzuela has charisma in spades and is confident on the microphone.
* The night continues with mixed six person tag action with Hugo Knox, Bull Dempsey, and Billie Kay taking on Solomon Crowe, Sawyer Fulton, and Nia Jax. The explosive Crowe starts off against Dempsey but fails to budge the big man. Crowe goes for a crossbody and simply bounces off Bull. Frustrated Crowe tags in Nia Jax, undeterred Billie Kay takes the fight to her. Billy locks on a waist lock and Nia Jax spins around violently trying to shake her off. Billie Kay tenaciously holds on and ends up turning it into an octopus hold until Jax grabs the ropes for a break. Billy tags in Hugo and the pace quickens. He tosses Crowe around with a pair of arm drags and follows with several kicks. Crowe catches the last kick but Knox counters with an ensiguri. Thanks to a distraction Crowe finally gets the upper hand and he and Fulton begin to work over Knox. Eventually Knox makes a hot tag to Bull to delivers a series of strikes to Fulton. Nia runs in but Billie headscissoring off of Bull and catching Nia for a big DDT. Bull runs down Fulton and finishes him with a seated senton off the top turnbuckle. Afterwards Bull and Billie celebrate in the ring by dancing along with Hugo. This was one of those odd, yet entertaining matches. I would have liked to see more ring time for Billie and Nia, but altogether this was a fun match. Hugo Knox is fast and extremely athletic for a guy his size, but it's likely his infectious dancing and enthusiasm that has him pretty over with the fans.
* Next is the perfect 10 Ty Dillinger taking on Tucker Knight. The bell rings and Dillinger out-grapples Knight easily, but can't seem to take him down. Finally after a fairly successful lock-up Dillinger cartwheels into his corner and throws up his hands for a perfect 10. Knight comes back leveling Dillinger with a big clubbing blow. He mocks him and slows the pace stalking Dillinger. Ty comes back with a kick and a dropkick but Knight shuts him down and eventually locks him into an agonizing bear hug. Finally Dillinger boxes the ears of Knight and breaks free and attacks Tucker with several strikes. Knight grabs him up for a big side slam, but moments later on his feet Dillinger staggers him with a big boot. Somehow Dillinger hoists the big man up for a big bodyslam. Dillinger hikes down his kneepad and finishes Knight with facebuster knee smash. Ty Dillinger looked great as always, but as always he made his opponent look great. Tucker Knight did a great job of engaging the crowd undeterred by snarky hecklers.
* Tag action is next with Baron Corbin and Riddick Moss taking on champs The Vaudevillians in a non-title match. Aiden English starts off looking to have a great time outwrestling Moss who gets frustrated and tags in Corbin. On a roll English stays a step ahead of the usually unstoppable Corbin tossing him with a series of arm drags. He tags in Gotch and they lift up Corbin for a double team suplex. Moments later Corbin tags Moss back in but the champs continue controlling the match. They execute their manly squats at the expense of Moss. Corbin takes a cheap shot from the ring apron laying out English and tags in. He begins a beat down on English but Moss tags himself back in. Corbin looks on irritated while Moss tosses Gotch overhead with a massive fallaway slam. Moments later Corbin would find himself back but Moss would quickly tag himself back in. Finally English makes a hot tag to Gotch who comes in with a flurry of his innovative kicks followed by a big suplex to Moss. Frustrated and dumbfounded Corbin looks on as Gotch nails Moss with a rolling senton. English comes off the top turnbuckle with a senton, Moss moves but English rolls through. English runs the ropes but Moss catches him with a powerslam. Corbin yells for a tag but Moss says he's "got this". Moments later the momentum starts to shift and Moss looks for tag, but Corbin walks off. The Vaudevillians lay out Moss with the Whirling Dervish for the victory. This was another really fun tag match. Riddick Moss gets better each outing and seems to be finding himself as a cocky heel. Baron Corbin has become a bona fide heat magnet but he seemingly thrives off of it, the more they jeer the better he becomes.
* NXT women's champ Bayley is out next in an Izzymania shirt to take on her opponent Peyton Royce. The match starts off at an extremely fast pace as the two run the ropes dodging the others strikes. Finally tired they stop and Bayley points to the ceiling and Peyton falls for it, allowing Bayley to stomp her foot and toss her around with an arm drag. The two make it back up and the pace again quickens until they stop again. This time Peyton points to the ceiling, but Bayley again stomps her foot and again tosses her. The action continues fast paced and back and forth. In the corner Peyton slams Bayley's head into the turnbuckle but Bayley begins to "hulk up". Bayley fires back slamming Peytons skull into the turnbuckle several times and then dropping her with a one handed bulldog. The momentum sways and Peyton comes back wisely slowing the pace. She contorts Bayley into an abdominal stretch. Moments later Bayley fights back with a series of axe-handles and a big elbow in the corner. Peyton drops Bayley onto the ropes and attempts to mount a comeback but Bayley nails her with a Belly-To-Bayley out of nowhere for the win. Peyton Royce (along with fellow Aussie Billie Kay) is a valuable addition to the NXT women's roster and simply cannot be jobbing on television for much longer. Ironically, not that long ago the division seemed gutted after ¾ of the horsewomen moved on. Now though it seems to be overflowing with possibilities with Billie and Peyton stepping up, Dana continually improving, the untapped potential of Nia Jax, and of course the very anxiously anticipated in-ring debut of Asuka.
* Next is a Takeover preview with Tyler Breeze taking on Apollo Crews. Breeze begins by flexing, talking trash, and mocking Crews. The action begins and Apollo takes charge with a dropkick right on the button followed by a big clothesline. Somehow Breeze comes back with several repeated blows and a neckbreaker. He grounds Crews with a chancery until he breaks free and the two men make it back up. The two grapple back and forth until Breeze rolls up Crews with a handful of trunks to snag a victory out of nowhere. Even with a victory under his belt Breeze felt the need to attack Crews after the match. Crews fought back with a heel kick followed by a military press and his amazing standing moonsault. This was a good match accentuated by Tyler's interaction with the crowd. I wish off the cuff and slightly goofy "house show" Tyler could translate to television.
* Our main event of the evening is Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder taking on Samoa Joe and Finn Balor. Dawson and Finn start by putting on a clinic with several minutes of nice grappling and mat work. Early on Dawson and Wilder begin targeting the arm of Balor. Through a miscue Dash accidentally attacks Dawson and the two get into it while Finn eggs it on. In the chaos Balor swoops up Wilder for an airplane spin. A dizzy disoriented Dash Wilder grabs the first body he bumps in to for a small package, but it happens to be referee Drake Wuertz. Finn Balor counts the 1,2,3 while Wilder pins the referee. After making it to his feet Drake regains control of the match. Dawson and Wilder take over working the injured arm of Balor with great tandem offense. Finn lands a pele kick and makes a tag to Joe while Dash tags in Dawson. Joe rocks Dawson with a series of punches, drops him with a big boot and follows with a senton. Dawson tries to comeback but Joe hits him with a powerslam that would make Randy Orton proud. Moments later Dawson sends Joe into a turnbuckle that he and Dash had exposed earlier. It doesn't stop Joe who plants Dawson with a big side slam and tags in Finn who delivers a hesitation dropkick to Wilder into Dawson. With both Dawson and Wilder prone on top of one another, Finn delivers a Coup De Grace to both men for the win, also managing to take out a ceiling tile in the process. This match alone was easily worth the price of admission. Personally, I didn't actually hear this match announced as a Dusty Rhodes tournament match, though I'm assuming it is. If so, I wish Dawson and Wilder could have advanced. As excellent as Joe and Finn are as singles wrestlers, to this humble blogger Dawson and Wilder are an actual team and easily the best tag team in NXT or WWE. However, in professional wrestling were wins and losses don't always matter I am just happy to see them in a main event and finally getting a well deserved push.